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Kazakhstan: Almaty Jewellery Wars Hot Up

15 Jun

Chopard face off with Alsara in central Almaty

The battle of high-end jewellery designers – Aliya Nazarbayeva and Gulnara Karimova – is hotting up as Chopard, the Swiss company working with Gulnara, placed a billboard directly opposite one advertising Aliya’s Alsara brand on the junction of Abylay Khan and Kurmangazy streets in the centre of Almaty.

As reported on Kazaxia in April, the youngest daughter of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev launched her exclusive jewellery collection through the auspices of Italian company Damiani. This made her the second Central Asian president’s daughter to enter the world of jewellery design, following in the footsteps of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov’s eldest daughter, who launched her Guli collection in collaboration with Chopard in 2009.

Aliya’s posters feature her glamorous visage beaming down from the billboard at the teeming masses of motorists sitting in Almaty’s notorious traffic jams. One could not accuse Ms Nazarbayeva of modesty, as another billboard stands at the entrance to the Luxor fitness centre. She is rumoured to own the luxurious facility which is said to have been inspired by a visit to the fabled city in Egypt.

Still no word on Aliya shadowing Gulnara – also known by her stage name of Googoosha – into the world of music. Maybe she’s leaving that to her opera-singing elder sister Dariga, who has often performed on Kazakhstan’s stages and further afield, including Moscow.

Kazakhstan: Heading for the Hills

2 Jun

Yum yum ... horses grazing at Ush Konyr

It’s that time of the year in Kazakhstan when people in years gone by would have made off for the high pastures with their horses, cows and sheep in the annual migration to the rich upland grazing land known as the zhaylau. The summer months would be spent fattening up the animals – and the humans – on the riches in the mountains in preparation for the long, cold winter.

Wild flowers in Ush Konyr

Soviet-era collectivisation put paid to this nomadic existence and few people in modern-day Kazakhstan still follow the wandering traditions, but come the weekend and many city-dwellers still feel the call of the wild and take off to the mountains in their 4x4s for a spot of communing with nature and to get their supper by picking wild mushrooms.

Mushroom mania

Last weekend Kazaxia joined the exodus and visited Ush Konyr, which is easily reached from Almaty – head for President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s home village of Shamalgan and then follow the track that winds steeply up to the 3,000 metre pastures. In no time at all you’re in the rolling grasslands where President Nazarbayev spent his early years. He had such fond memories of this carefree existence that he penned a song about it. See it performed here by Kazakh band MuzArt.

More wild flowers in Ush Konyr

The smog and noise of Almaty feel light years away as you breathe in the clean air and concentrate on foraging for edible mushrooms and admiring the rich covering of wild flowers. You’ll see packs of horses grazing as you hike around and the occasional paraglider taking flight, but not a great deal else will intrude to spoil your peace and quiet.